AN EVALUATION OF PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT
Systematic and pervasive discrimination directed against whole groups of people is a particularly serious and abhorrent form of social injustice. In our own society, racial minorities and women are among those who in varying degrees have been and continue to be victims of such systematic injustice. What should the response of society be to such injustice in its own domain?
While some would say that the just society simply should stop discriminating, others respond that that is not enough. In addition to eliminating discrimination, the state may be required to take affirmative action to insure that the victims of past discrimination can take their full place as equals in society. A particular form of affirmative action which has proven especially controversial is preferential treatment. Adherents of preferential treatment argue that the proper response to systematic discrimination is to extend special preference to members of victimized groups in the distribution of jobs, as well as in the selection of applicants to scarce positions in medical and law schools, and other graduate and university programs.
Preferential treatment has been the subject of considerable debate in the political arena and in the courts. White males such as Marco DeFunis and Allan Bakke have argued, before the Supreme Court, that preferential treatment in favor of racial minorities is a form of invidious reverse dis-